Though scientists with even the bravest lenses cannot ascertain why, it is accepted as fact that they come most often when you are sick. As the fever stirs the head of young boys, draining them of their legos and astronauts, the windows streak with these little soldiers. Mostly hesitating, but racing from time to time, the aliens fall in ambitious little pods to the earth, here to exact their mark on this world.
As the young boy, whose skin is pale and red, turns about in his blanket by the window, they chuckle dutifully in the puddle. A sandy brown thing, enmeshed in the lattice of the motel’s sinking bricks, little command centers are deployed. They float, turning sometimes with the colours of gasoline and sometimes with the refraction of dirt below, and then inevitably pop as they are barraged by other little legionnaires with all-too-similar dreams.
They have great aspirations, these aliens. Smaller than us, and far from human, they meet in councils in the sky. Great spaceships of vaporous threads, schemes and shades, float, plotting, above us. You will see them pass over the fields at recess, faster than you. They will take over the earth, they say. They will come down to us in droves, driving hundreds of ambitious spirits to their fates, they say. Passionate, they are, each of them in such a hurry to arrive.
We will flood the streets, they say. We will outnumber them a thousand to one. We will drive them from their homes and sweep their world up in our tide of new becomings, they will flee in terror as the maw of our rushing body devours the world and plunges all beneath a still, liquid surface. What will be left of us then, they say.
They have been trying for many years, we will note, as we blow our raw, sore nose. Many tactics they have tried, at many have they failed. The compatriots of raindrops, but by no means allies, are the little men of frost. They push so insistently into the river. With their well-conceived embroidery, they claim, little by little, the rippling currents. They will freeze the sea, they say. The world will not move beneath us, we will petrify everything. Women and children will freeze, mid-laugh, mid-sob. The engines in the streets will fume no longer. Time will stall its dance upon the waves. They do not plan for the spring. In great rafts, they will break, smashed and shattered by the sun and set adrift upon their fates.
On their designs drift the piling constructions of the snowflakes. Proud in their naivete, each pilot rests with resolve between his peers and constructs great walls. Not of the kind we humans know, of boundaries and differences; rather, they settle like mounting imperatives. Father casts aside the shovel, mother calls in sick. A kettle whistles on an unwashed stove. The streets, houses, bricks, and trees are claimed in a monotonous pearl. Children play liberally in the fields, and the school is dark for the day. This is how they will claim us; the infrastructure. They are smart, these frosty pilots. Education and the streets. If they manage to choke out these things, the world will fall into an ice age, they say. It will all be white, be cold; we will sting and bite the faces of little boys who leave their blankets. The sick little boys.
I will open the window, just a little bit. With my face on the floor, I will stick my hand into the rain. This fierce battle will not hurt me, for I am great, I am eternal, as the summer and the bricks of this motel. As screaming aspirants burst on the young boy’s arm, he touches the surface. Ripples of a different nature here appear, and swivel briefly among the puddle’s textured surfaces. I draw my hand, and the little command stations swell, dip, and continue to pop. As I touch one, it takes hold of my finger, inspecting me, perhaps trying to envelop me. A kiss. Pop. I take my hand inside.
No, these little creatures that fling themselves upon the earth, raindrops, snowflakes, hail, breezes, and shafts of moonlight, are ever wilder than our waters and ventilation at home. We fill our bathtubs first with cold, then with hot water. We stir it to a lukewarm behaviour. It is filled with oatmeal, and I am laid into it for my pox. I breathe in, and smell of breakfast. This water has been tamed. This water knows no aspiration, plots of no floods, forms no centers of command and has forgotten how to dive from the sky. My head sinks under and the oatmeal swirls in my hair.
We mustn’t speak so loudly of them. The orators upon the windshield, who sing in sparkling harmony, nor the deviant frosts, who have abandoned their streambeds and fallen leaves for the minting of the morning window. If they knew that they were of us, their fury would be immense. They would leave us. We, too, are made of such designs, flowing hot beneath our skin. It is how, and this is fact, we may see their comings and goings, their declarations and downfalls. It is how we see them with beauty, and how we understand that their lives, each, are soon to pass.
Close your eyes, young one. Soon, this fever will
Though it is the hope of every person engaged in the production of art that this art should be able to stand alone and speak for itself, it is no offense to be asked for elaboration on its intent. It is my understanding, however, that for elaboration itself to be a project that matches its art in kind and not become a bastard adumbration, it must be through the straining words of philosophy. I have been asked to clarify the inspiration of the piece, and so, will here try to.
Suzanne Langer’s Philosophy in a New Key articulates a radical reorientation of how the Greek Pantheon is to be understood – yes, the Greek Pantheon. ‘The Olympian gods, who seem like free inventions of an innocent, delighted imagination, are imposed upon a background strangely unlike themselves. For a lone time their luminous figures dazzled our eyes; we were not able to see the half-lit regions behind them, the dark primaeval tangle of desires and fears and dreams from which they drew their vitality.’ The Percy-Jackson ideas we have of the Olympian pantheon today, Apollo with his bow, Demeter with her motherly issues and Hephaestus with his lacking notions of consent, figure the Greek gods to be, as indeed the myths make them to be, people. They metamorphose, quarrel and pop out of one another’s heads, but narratively they are human.
To understand the historical development of the Greek mythos, we must sink further from these concrete personae to a more basic ritualistic symbolism, which was derivatively personified into the god-people we know today. ‘In the great Greek festivals the Olympian gods played no role at all: their names were quite externally associated with these occasions, and were usually modified by an epithet, to make the connection at least reasonable. Thus the Athenian Diasia is held in honor of “Zeus Meilichios,” or “Zeus of Placation.”’
My little story – I hope this much is clear – seeks to restore something akin to this sort of being that exists between natural animism and anthropomorphism – that is, an organic personification. As a boy, I do, indeed, remember staring out of a motel window at the bubbles forming in the rain; they moved with purpose, and, as will be corroborated by those who watch from time to time, a certain species of violence. It has since become a subconscious habit to observe natural phenomena such as snow, frost and shafts of light with a similar sort of ‘personification’; letting things be alive beneath our gaze. I combined these moments with my feverish memories in the motel to create a narrative.
The last sentence is entirely intentional, frustrating though it might be. The abruptness of its unfinished syntax suggests a death; the relation of ‘soon this will’ to the prior ‘pass’ suggests the passing of the fever. Taken together, if I am given full authority to retrospectively design my story, the meaning can neither absolutely be death, nor the resolving of the fever, but must accommodate both together: the boy has died, or else been cured; in either case meaning the same thing, namely, a change of state. To die is to end the narrativity; for the narrativity to end as such is a form of death. The boy is cured; the boy has succumbed.